Rally Speech June 11th 2017:
If I begin to shake or my voice begins to falter, please bear with me. If I start to cry, I won’t ask for your forgiveness. I’ll ask you to remember the person that stood in front of others during our pride month who spoke of something that concerns every single one of us. I have made the choice to be vulnerable. I have made the choice to perpetuate the cycle of empathy and love because apathy and hate DO NOT have a place in this world. I want you to leave here today in hopes that this still resonates within you so we can save as many lives as our community and allies can.
This is my story
I am a statistic. I use that reference to allow a visceral understanding that our lives can be broken down into numbers once our spirit dies. Family and friends will know our names but we will forever be archived as those who battled oppression and lost at the cost of our bodies. Our names don’t live among the margins on governmental reports. Hear more than that statement, feel it.
I had my happy moments as a kid. But there was one part about me that dictated the course of my future. From the time I was five I had already known I was different. But even at that early of an age I recognized the hate from external sources about my kind. While I didn’t have a name for what I was, I knew how I felt was definitely not a choice. As a young kid, it just was and it was me, but therein began the battle. I was not allowed to be me. I was the girl who flirted with girls, I was the girl who wanted to kiss the girls, I very much liked the girls. I was the girl at six years old who decided I would dawn a pair of my brother’s underwear and wear it over my pajama bottoms and sling a cape I had made from my woobie across my shoulders. I would proudly exclaim some statement of bravado as I had jumped from my back door to the inch below of pavement outside, knowing I would impress those girls playing with my sister. I proclaimed in front of all in my Superman glory, “I am here to save you.” I didn’t get the reaction I had hoped for, they laughed at me. With a crumpled spirit of a 5-year-old, hunched over shoulders and puppy dog eyes, I made way back to the drawing board to win their attention one day. While I was embarrassed I realize now that in fact that was my first attempt at freeing myself from a blinding suffocation of who I was and the life of not only my body but my emotional and spiritual well being.
I am a survivor in every way. Eventually I would become a survivor of molestation, rape, addiction, domestic abuse, and a survivor of three suicide attempts. I battle with PTSD and debilitating panic disorder to this day. The one attempt that would define the biggest portion of my life, was the one I almost didn’t survive. I was serving in the military during “Don’t ask Don’t tell.” While at first that seemed I was getting one over on the system, I was the rebel WITH a cause, it quickly turned to depression and suicidal ideation. For me there was nothing worse than serving my country knowing that one day they could pin a good conduct medal on me, then the next day strip it off my chest because of who I loved. I saw all my fellow soldiers getting married, making babies, moving into family housing, being themselves, being happy. I had a girlfriend but on my weekends I had to hide in the corner of the bar she worked at so I wouldn’t out myself by holding her hand or even a slight peck on the cheek. Those corners can get very dark and lonely. I would spend hours in that bar slamming them back from eight at night to five in the morning. I was that hateful jaded power drinker and a ticking time bomb as they call it. I referred to myself as just a matter of time. Too much time inside my head, too much time seeing everyone else happy as I started to drown in my own personal hell. Too much thinking it wasn’t even worth it.
On Dec 31st 1999, I stared down at the blade of a knife and saw something pathetic, a body and soul that would never be allowed to be that person, me, that kid again in thought but adult in body. Now I had a name for it, and still I knew how I felt was definitely not a choice. As an adult now, this just was, and it was me. And again, they were telling me, I wasn’t allowed to be me as they called out faggot and spit in my eyes. It only took a moment to brandish the cold steel of a knife, a good size one, the kind you slice big loaves of bread with as I can recall. For a second I remember seeing a metal reflection of doubt, pain and rage on that knife. With my knuckles turning white as I embraced my end, the textured plastic handle, feeling a peace I hadn’t felt in quite some time, I hesitated no further……………….I awoke in the hospital the next day. I came to and was alone. I battled with the sleep in my eyes and the pain in my stomach. I was alive, so now what? I looked down and had a huge surgical wound from my diaphragm to my belly button and it wasn’t pretty. I had learned not long after waking that I had come within about half an inch of nicking a major artery. I almost died.
Yes, this isn’t a happy beginning, but now I revel; in the most glorious of beginnings. The canvas is clean. A beginning of strength, perseverance in the face of the most malevolent of adversity. One of courage when they told me I couldn’t and that I can’t. One of being exhausted in the face of hate and violence and overcoming. I don’t want pity but what I ask is to take my story in for a moment. Feel it, let yourself be vulnerable as I have allowed myself to be right here today in front of you. In that combined heart and understanding it is that power that creates a cycle of empathy. One that overcomes the rages of our world and the constant bombardment that we do not belong here. We ABSOLUTELY belong here, ALL of us. Some people say its day by day, in my youth on many days I had to take that pain second by second and that is ok. It’s not a race. You don’t need to move past hurt on other people’s schedules. Take the time for yourself. It is your time here on this planet, your life and nobody has the right to dictate the course of your grief, happiness or that body and spirit that YOU live in and have made home. Own every damn second of that proudly. I call on others to sit with the disheartened, beleaguered, and broken. Hold them, listen to them, cry with them, and be them. Feel the tears stain your cheeks and let that compassion and empathy well inside you as the tears sting in the corner of bloodshot eyes. Because that is living to love, and to be love.